Thursday, September 29, 2011

I Must Be Partly Japanese . . .

Smoked and Hot Smoked Shredded Squid

. . . because I love this kind of shredded dried squid with its strange, quintessentially Japanese flavor -- fishy, salty, sweet and smoky all at once. It is a snack found at convenience stores everywhere in Japan and comes in different flavors. This brand, for example, comes in plain, smoked, hot and hot smoked. Despite my love of spicy things, smoked is my favorite, because the essential smokiness is not forced to compete with the peppery spices found in the hotter version.

I buy these at Dainobu on East 47th Street in Manhattan.

Bobby Jay

Saturday, September 24, 2011

No-Knead, No-Yeast Bread

No-knead, no yeast country and semolina breads

For several months, I have been trying to come up with a way to make bread that combines the ease and time control of Jim Lahey's fabulous no-knead bread technique with the sweet fresh taste achieved by making a no-yeast levain bread following the technique set forth in Chad Robertson's wonderful Tartine Bread. In short, to make a no-knead no-yeast bread.

This turns out to be difficult, because the levain does not provide the loaf with as much natural "oven spring" as yeast does. Intervention is necessary, and came in the form of shaping the loaf with a twisting motion after the long rise and again an hour later, as described in detail in the recipes. After quite a struggle, many flat loaves, and numerous consultations with my friend John Hoppin, I think I've got it. For the recipes for a crusty country style boule and a semolina bread with fennel, sesame and poppy seeds, as shown above, just click on the links.

If you make one or both of these breads, please let me know how it comes out.  I am eager to improve on the recipes.

Bobby Jay

Saturday, September 10, 2011

DBGB's Glazed Lamb (or Pork) Ribs

DBGB's Lamb Riblets
A few months ago, The New York Times showcased a recipe from DBGB (chef Jim Leiken) for glazed lamb riblets. I tried this recipe with riblets from locally farmed lamb, which I found at the Union Square Market. The dish was just fantastic, full of varied flavors -- coriander and fennel seeds, Aleppo pepper, rosemary, thyme, honey -- that mingled in an interesting, even exciting, way. I immediately added it to my "best recipes" list.

A month later, I discovered a rack of Heritage Farms baby back pork ribs in my freezer and my wife suggested trying the same preparation. Even better! My friend Piglet and her husband shared this with us and he told me that they were the best ribs he had ever had. So you have choices: if pork is not your thing, go with the lamb; otherwise, pork ribs are easier to find and slightly juicier.

This recipe is not hard to make, although it has a number of steps because it has a glaze, a sprinkle and a minted yogurt sauce that, for some reason, is not included in the on-line version of the recipe. Just combine 1 cup of whole-milk yogurt, 1/2 cup of crème fraîche; 1/4 cup of mint, minced; 1 tablespoon of chives, minced; 1/2 garlic clove, grated; zest of 1 lemon; salt, pepper and tabasco or other hot sauce to taste. Although not essential, I think the sauce is a nice addition: yet another flavor and a smooth texture that contrasts with the crispy glaze on the ribs.

Try this recipe!

Bobby Jay

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Paris - Le Bouchon et l'Assiette Again

Last night I returned to le Bouchon et l'Assiette, a little unpretentious Basque-oriented bistro in the 17th arrondissement, not very near to anything. We had discovered this place earlier in the summer, and I wanted to find out whether that excellent experience was a fluke. It wasn't. Last night I had the three-course menu (33 euros), consisting of
-- Tartlet of crunchy vegetables atop anchovies from Getaria (on the Spanish Basque coast). Perfectly cooked, but the anchovies stole the show. A veritable burst of pungent umami (the fifth taste sense, best described as savouriness) without hardly any taste of salt. Now I'm on the hunt for these anchovies. 
-- Roasted Challans chicken breast stuffed under the skin with mushroom and hazelnut duxelles, with glazed turnips. Fine chicken, but the turnips were a marvel. I was told that the turnip disks were slowly poached in reduced chicken broth, or confited. They must then have been browned in butter with a tiny bit of sugar because they had a slightly crunchy sweet exterior that was a great contrast to the almost disappearing interior. I plan to spend some time trying to approximate this truly amazing vegetable dish.
-- Salad of white peaches in mint syrup and financiers. Not a success because the peaches were underripe and the financiers, while good, had nothing to do with the peaches. The way to go here would be to use very ripe peaches (or lightly poach them) and soak a baba with the mint syrup.
Definitely worth a visit.

Bobby Jay

Friday, September 2, 2011

Paris - Gâteau Basque: The Almost Forgotten (by Me) Cake

Gosselin's Gâteau Basque
When I lived in Paris in the late 1970's, my colleague and I would sometimes finish lunch with a slice of gâteau Basque. Over the years, I had almost forgotten about this seemingly simple, regional specialty, a somewhat cakelike pastry filled with almond cream, but today I came upon an appetizing specimen at Gosselin. With its traditional shiny egg-washed top and the fork-scored pattern, it screamed "buy me" so I did.

When I dug in, the contrasting layers of dry pastry and almost dry, not too sweet, almond cream whisked me back to 1979 as if I had never left. This is not the greatest of French pastries, but worth eating every now and then.

And I think I'm going to try making gâteau Basque when I get home; there are lots of purportedly authentic and traditional recipes online and probably in my cookbook collection.

Bobby Jay